History of North America

History of North America encompasses the past developments of people populating the continent of North America. While it was widely believed that continent first became a human habitat when people migrated across the Bering Sea 40,000 to 17,000 years ago,[1] recent discoveries may have pushed those estimates back at least another 90,000 years.[2] People settled throughout the continent, from the Inuit of the far north to the Mayans and Aztecs of the south. These complex communities each developed their own unique ways of life and cultures.

A composed satellite photograph of North America in orthographic projection
Contemporary political/physical map of North America

Records of European travel to North America begin with the Norse colonization in the tenth century AD. In 985, they founded a settlement on Greenland (an often-overlooked part of North America) that persisted until the early 1400s. They also explored the east coast of Canada, but their settlements there were much smaller and shorter-lived. With the Age of Exploration and the voyages of Christopher Columbus (starting 1492), Europeans began to arrive in the Americas in large numbers and to develop colonial ambitions for both North and South America.[citation needed] After Columbus, influxes of Europeans soon followed and overwhelmed the native population. North America became a staging ground for ongoing European rivalries. The continent was divided by three prominent European powers: England, France, and Spain. The influences of colonization by these states on North American cultures are still apparent today.

Conflict over resources on North America ensued in various wars between these powers, but, gradually, the new European colonies developed desires for independence. Revolutions, such as the American Revolution and Mexican War of Independence, created new, independent states that came to dominate North America. The Canadian Confederation formed in 1867, creating the modern political landscape of North America.

From the 19th to 21st centuries, North American states have developed increasingly deeper connections with each other. Although some conflicts have occurred, the continent has for the most part enjoyed peace and general cooperation between its states, as well as open commerce and trade between them. Modern developments include the opening of free trade agreements, extensive immigration from Mexico and Latin America, and drug trafficking concerns in these regions.


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